Indian oud, Tobacco, Champaca, Pink Lotus, Mysore Sandalwood, Myrrh, Frankincense, Labdanum and Vanilla.
This is a difficult fragrance to get to know. My personal favourite. Night Song begins with medicinal pungency – it conjures the scent-scape of a natural therapies clinic – liniments and bandages and tonics and bitters and compounded herbs greet you on first whiff.
It’s not especially unpleasant, but it reminds me of going to visit the acupuncturist and recognising that the previous patient’s treatment included moxa (the heated smouldering of artemisia bundles used in TCM). So there’s a smoky layer at first encounter, not how most people imagine a pretty sounding thing like a Night Song should smell. This strangeness is created by the tobacco and Indian oud. Very strange top notes, I know. For noses unaccustomed to real Indian oud, it is primal and raw and animalic in a completely different way to the harvested excretions of furry critters used in western perfumery. Indian oud, harvested from Aquilaria agallocha trees in Assam, is the whole barnyard. The Indian oud used in Night Song is the real deal, and for most people exposed to ‘oud’ in commercial fragrances, this is a completely different scent altogether. It is an acquired taste and yet once ‘met’ by the limbic system, an essential ‘colour’ on the palette of natural perfume. Black in hue and in scent. It is the Night…in Night Song.
So… you wait 10 minutes in the clinic waiting room, flipping through a pile of old National Geographics. Enthralled by some incredible photographs of mysterious, tiger-filled jungles in India, you swear you hear tablas playing off in the distance, and you even start to smell the dry, sweet drift of sandalwood incense. Startled, you look up from the magazine, and discover you have teleported into a lush, tropical garden park at dusk. The air is singing with the molasses-thick scents of champaca flowers and pink lotus. The pairing of these two heavy florals is what makes Night Song so incredible for me. The earthy, sweet grunge of pink lotus that smashes head-on with the intensity of the champaca.
Champaca (a magnolia) is a complex and difficult flower to incorporate in perfume. It often king-hits its way to the front, and bombards all else in the flask with it’s bombastic presence. The earthiness of Pink Lotus – also a powerhouse fragrance, enters the ring to engage in a battle that may never be won. There is the crux of it. The sexual tension that exists between the opposing florals is the true substance of Night Song.
It is the dark, earthy anchor created by the tobacco and oud in tandem with the resins – Myrrh and Frankincense, and the creamy sweet Mysore sandalwood that provide a sturdy scaffold for the florals to wrestle around upon. Vanilla amplifies the sweet and gustatory elements of every floral facet of Night Song, causing a creamy/fruity layer to emerge – a tropically humid, sweat-soaked, erotic tryst in the moonlight.
This perfume is a fragrant opera, at times incomprehensibly dense and overwhelmingly enormous, yet sexy as anything I’ve ever smelled. Each time the pink lotus or champaca appears to yield, I feel a thrill of joy and wonder. Who will win?
Best by far when worn in humid, hot weather, I imagine Night Song as the queenly scent worn by the Empress Draupadi – also named Yojanagandha – (Sanskrit: योजनगन्धा) – ‘she whose fragrance can be felt for miles’.
photo (top) Humayun’s tomb and Dili Haat, New Delhi TR©2012